Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Killing Kim Jong Un

You may have noticed the recent UN report on North Korea that tells us what we already knew: not a nice government at all. In fact the most hellish place on earth. As I say, not exactly news. But I have an entirely different point to make.

One of the first commenters on the Daily Kos diary about this wanted to know why we don't just send in the SEALS to kill him as we did Osama bin Laden. There are many reasons why that would not be a good idea, the first being that it wouldn't work. Unlike bin Laden, Kim is very well protected by soldiers with guns, and the helicopters would not just sit there unmolested while the SEALS shot it out with them.  But, Kim is not in hiding. He makes public appearances and I presume the locations of his residences and workplaces are known to western intelligence. So he could be whacked with a tomahawk cruise missile. But that would be an equally bad idea.

I'm sure my Dear Readers can think of all the reasons why. But I'll just short circuit that discussion to say that the people outside of North Korea who have the biggest stake in this and know the most about it are obviously not Americans, but South Koreans. And they very clearly would not want the U.S. to assassinate Kim. In other words, it's not particularly our problem.

So let's turn now to Ukraine. We hear all this yammering from the right about how the crisis in Ukraine is somehow a failure by the Obama administration. "We" failed to do whatever it was we should have done to stop Putin from acting aggressively in the Crimea, and "we" have to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and "we" will be disgraced and look like wimps if Obama doesn't do whatever it is he's supposed to do about this, which is not specified.

The fact is, what happens to Ukraine matters to Ukrainians, and to their neighbors, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the United States. That the Crimea is part of Ukraine today is actually the result of a historic oddity. (Kruschev attached it administratively to Ukraine when the whole thing was part of the Soviet Union so it didn't really matter. The Crimea was always a part of Russia and its population today is majority Russian. People of other ethnicities were expelled during Soviet rule but that's water over the dam.) So for Crimea to revert to Russian control would not be an injustice, per se, although I expect most of its current ethnically Russian inhabitants are leery of the Putin regime and the neo-fascist philosophy he has cobbled out of the wreckage of Stalinism. But that's yet another story.

What is at stake here is the means by which intra- and international disputes are to be settled, and borders drawn. The potential for an unfortunate precedent -- well hardly a new one, but one we had hoped was inoperative -- is real. But the cost to Russia would be great. Instead of good relations with a unified Ukraine, they'd have a relentlessly hostile neighbor aligned with a newly enraged Europe, in return for biting off a slice of territory in which they already had a military presence. This would be an unfortunate development, bad for the world, but there is nothing in particular that "we" can do about it nor is it in any way the fault of some sin of omission on the part of the United States.

So, in sum, we have got to get over the mindless reaction of thinking that everything that goes on in the world is all about the United States, that we're responsible for fixing everything, and if we don't, it's a failure by somebody. We should do what we can to make the planet better, but sometimes that isn't very much. Have the wisdom to know the difference.

1 comment:

Gexton said...
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